by Sufyan bin Uzayr
Mar 26, 2014
As of now, Kuwait is hosting its first Arab League Summit. The slogan for this year’s Summit is “Solidarity For A Better Future”. Question is: will the Kuwait Summit ensure solidarity for the region?
It is a well known fact that the Arab World has seen its own share of regional alliances formed on the basis of ideological, sectarian and regional dynamics. With the recent cases of the Arab Spring, such dynamism has become all the more complicated and thus, regional solidarity is surely a challenging task to accomplish.
Back in the 1950s-60s, the Arab World was divided into two factions: pro-Soviet Arab nationalists led by Egypt, and pro-West conservatives led by Saudi Arabia. The division between the two factions was so paramount that Malcolm Kerr termed it as The Arab Cold War.
Alignments changed in the year 1978 after the signing of the Camp David Accord, when Egypt decided to quit the Arab-Israeli conflict. Both Syria and Iraq tried their best to isolate Egypt after Camp David, but the situation refused to remain static. Following the Islamic Revolution of 1979 in Iran, Iraq’s attention shifted towards Iran, and the Arab World witnessed another set of factionism. This time, countries such as Syria, Libya and Algeria sided with Iran, whereas the Gulf States, Egypt and Jordan aided Iraq.
Things soon went out of control when Saddam Hussein, the then leader of Iraq, decided to invade Kuwait. Yemen and Jordan supported Iraq in rhetoric, whereas most of the Gulf States aided the US-led alliance to drive Saddam Hussein out Kuwait. This round of musical chairs continued right until the early 1990s, when the Madrid Peace Conference was held and a dual containment policy was forwarded to keep a check on both Iran and Iraq, under the observation of USA, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Egypt.
The policy of dual containment remained in effect until 2003, when USA decided to invade Iraq and eliminate Saddam Hussein. Thereafter, a new regional factionism emerged. This time, the Gulf States (with the possible exception of Qatar), Egypt and Jordan decided to be the moderate voice in the region, whereas Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hezbollah emerged as the new axis of resistance against the US. The war in Lebanon (2006) and Israel’s attack against Hamas in Gaza further widened the gap.
Then came the phase of the Arab Spring revolutions, which made the picture all the more complicated. While proponents of the Arab Spring surely talked a good deal about freedom and liberty, its ideological blindness became well evident. A movement that refused to distinguish between the more moderate Hosni Mubarak and the comparatively radical Bashar al-Assad is confused at best, directionless at worst.
The Present Day
As of now, the region has three major groups, each with its own ideological, sectarian and geo-political agenda to pursue.
First, we have the pro-Shiite camp, which is led by the Maliki government of Iraq and Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria.
Second, there is the counter-revolution group, led by Saudi Arabia and supported by UAE, Jordan and possibly Egypt.
Third, we have the moderate elements, such as Turkey and Qatar, that are trying to server as a balancing force in the region.
There is not much to talk about the first group, simply because has a clearly-defined gameplan of its own — siding with Shiite regimes and factions wherever possible.
The second group, however, is trying hard to keep the eerily confused and horribly chaotic Arab Spring revolutions at bay. Saudi Arabia, for instance, offered to host the deposed President(s) of both Egypt and Tunisia, Hosni Mubarak and Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali respectively. Even more so, in spite of its animosity with Gaddafi, Saudi Arabia expressed no support for the Libyan Revolution either. In fact, the only reason Saudi Arabia is supporting Syrian Revolution is because if al-Assad’s regime survives, the Shiite faction under Iran will become a regional hegemon.
The third group, on the other hand, is pushing for peace, and calls for the restoration of democracy in Egypt.
Quite obviously, the Middle East has a good number of challenges to tackle and achieving true solidarity is an uphill task.
The Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad, has been trying for quite some time to melt the ice between Qatar, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Yet, this three-way battle in the region is way too complicated to be tackled easily and this makes the purpose of this year’s Arab League Summit all the more difficult.
Therefore, as the host country of this year’s Summit, Kuwait needs to mend fences between rival brothers and ensure that regional hiccups do not escalate into a full-fledged crisis.
Sufyan bin Uzayr is the author of “Sufism: A Brief History”. He writes for several print and online publications, and regularly blogs about issues of contemporary relevance at Political Periscope (www.politicalperiscope.com). You can also connect with him using Facebook (http://facebook.com/sufyanism) or Google+ (https://plus.google.com/+SufyanbinUzayr?rel=author) or email him at email@example.com
Dec 3, 2013
The much-anticipated “Geneva II” Syrian peace talks might not be held in Geneva due to insufficient hotel availability, UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said in an interview broadcast Tuesday.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon finally set a date last week for the peace conference, which has been repeatedly postponed since June and is now set to kick off on January 22.
But while UN organisers were glad to finally have a date to work towards, they now find themselves in a pickle, Brahimi acknowledged in an interview with public broadcaster RTS. (Read more…)
The conference is due to begin on the same day the global elite gathers for the annual World Economic Forum at the swank Swiss ski resort of Davos and will also clash with a luxury watch fair in Geneva.
The city’s hotels are fully booked, leading organisers to look for alternatives.
One of them is Montreux — a scenic town at the other end of Lake Geneva and known for its jazz festival — to gather Syria’s warring parties for peace talks.
“If we go to Montreux, it would be for just 24 hours, while waiting for the watch show and Davos to end,” Brahimi told RTS.
Montreux is just over an hour’s train ride from Geneva, but the veteran Algerian diplomat explained that people who come to Geneva are often unwilling to accept a long commute.
“If you go to New York, you know that it will take you an hour or two to get into town, and you accept that,” he said.
“In Geneva you are used to being just 10 minutes from the airport, so if we told people they would have to travel for an hour and 15 minutes, they would say, oh la la.”
UN spokeswoman Corinne Momal-Vanian confirmed that the ministerial-level meeting on January 22 itself “may indeed be held outside of Geneva because of logistics reasons.”
She said no decision had yet been made.
When asked whether the conference would have to be renamed if moved, Momal-Vanian said: “We try not to respond to hypothetical questions.”
[Image via Agence France-Presse]
[VIA The Raw Story]
August 28, 2013
The UN-Arab League envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, says there’s evidence suggesting that some kind of chemical substance was used in an attack near Damascus a week ago – but that there’s no proof at this point that the Assad government is responsible. But, such an assault in itself could be enough for the US and its allies to launch a military offensive against the war-torn country – despite the UN and Syria saying the inspectors need more time at the site. RT has a panel of experts to talk to about the developments surrounding Syria. Marcus Papadopoulos – Middle East commentator and Editor of Politics First; Pavel Andreev – Executive Director of the Valdai Club Foundation, a discussion group of leading experts across many fields; Sunny Hundai – Editor of the political blog ‘Liberal Conspiracy’; Anissa Naouai – RT’s Senior Political Correspondent.
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May 24, 2013
The Arab League has held an urgent meeting on Syria at its headquarters in Cairo. The meeting was aimed at developing a unified Arab stance regarding the international efforts to find a political solution to the crisis in Syria.
April 10, 2013
British Foreign Secretary William Hague has invited the leaders of Syria’s foreign-backed opposition coalition to London in a latest instance of foreign meddling in the domestic affairs of the Arab country.
Hague said on Tuesday that senior members of the foreign-backed opposition, the so-called Syrian National Coalition, will attend meetings with top diplomats from the G8 leading industrial states ahead of a formal summit of the group.
The individuals, including Ghassan Hitto, George Sabra and Soheir Atassi, are expected to ask for further support from the Western governments in their fight against the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
The move by the British foreign secretary to invite members of the foreign-backed Syrian opposition, who are not considered representatives of the Syrian people, is considered the latest attempt by Western governments and their allies to interfere in the domestic affairs of Syria.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry has said he would meet with Syria’s foreign-backed opposition leaders in the British capital, adding that the US administration is looking at possible ways to help the militants in Syria.
Foreign ministers from eight countries – Britain, France, Germany, Canada, Russia, Italy, Japan and the United states – will hold formal talks on Thursday.
The ministers will discuss the issues of Syria and North Korea.
Hague also said that Britain and France would continue efforts to facilitate the arming of the militants in Syria.
In another act of foreign meddling, the Arab League handed Syria’s seat to the so-called National Coalition during a two-day summit held in the Qatari capital, Doha, on March 26.
Damascus condemned the move, saying the League has “forgotten that it is the people who grant the powers and not the emirs of obscurantism and sand.”
Syria has been experiencing unrest since March 2011. Many people, including large numbers of Syrian army and security personnel, have been killed in the violence.
Friends of Syria
March 30, 2013
Russian Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin says his country will strongly oppose any attempt to give Syria’s UN seat to opposition forces.
“We will oppose it very strongly, but … I don’t think it is going to happen,” Churkin said on Thursday.
“They (UN states) value this institution, they understand that if something of the sort were to happen, that would really undercut the standing of the United Nations,” he added.
This comes after Syrian opposition chief Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib said earlier that “We demand … the seat of Syria at the United Nations and at other international organizations.”
Churkin also denounced a move by the Arab League (AL) to hand Syria’s seat to opposition forces, saying that the AL is now playing a ‘negative role’ in the Syrian conflict.
The Russian ambassador added that the Arab League decision damaged its standing and undermined the efforts of UN-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.
On Tuesday, Syria’s opposition bloc, known as the National Coalition, took Syria’s seat during the Arab League annual summit held in the Qatari capital, Doha.
The League also authorized its members to send all the means of what it called self-defense, including weapons, to militants fighting against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
On Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also criticized the League’s decision, saying that “In terms of international law, the league’s decision on Syria is illegal and indefensible.”
Syria has been experiencing unrest since March 2011. Many people, including large numbers of Army and security personnel, have been killed in the violence.
The Syrian government has said that the chaos is being orchestrated from outside the country, and that a very large number of the militants operating in the country are foreign nationals.
Several international human rights organizations have accused foreign-sponsored militants of committing war crimes.
March 28, 2013
An analyst slams the Arab League (AL) decision to hand the Syrian government’s seat to the foreign-backed opposition describing the move as ‘completely ludicrous, illegitimate and dangerous.’
The comment comes as Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said in an interview that granting Syria’s seat to the so-called Syrian National Coalition (SNC) is the violation of the AL convention, the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported.
“The name of the League is the Arab League…representatives of the member states are the elected governments which have legitimacy, express and represent their people,” Zebari stated.
Press TV has conducted an interview with Freelance journalist and political analyst, Ala’a Ibrahim in Damascus to further discuss the issue.